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Federal Judge Nixes Most Of Mexican Businessman’s Requests

U.S. Southern District Edward J. Schwartz Courthouse on Broadway Avenue in downtown San Diego.

A federal judge Monday denied most of a Mexican billionaire's requests for discovery in a case alleging he illegally donated to U.S. political campaigns.

Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, who appeared in court, is accused of funneling up to $600,000 to the 2012 mayoral campaigns of Bob Filner and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Juan Vargas’s congressional bid. It is illegal for foreign nationals to donate to U.S. campaigns. Azano has pleaded not guilty.

U.S. District Judge Michael Anello decided against many of Azano's requests, including details about why U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy recused herself from the case. Anello said the information was either privileged, irrelevant to the charges or the request was too vague.

The judge did grant Azano’s request to seal court documents already made public this month by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In them, prosecutors claim Azano appeared in earlier federal investigations involving drug smuggling and money laundering.

Azano's attorney, Knut Johnson, said details about those inquiries were irrelevant and they could hinder his client's right to a fair trial.

Federal prosecutors agreed to seal the court papers and file updated documents that redacted those sections.

Anello also ordered the government to provide more information about an email chain said to involve Azano and share materials obtained through electronic surveillance.

Although Anello ruled against most of the defense's requests, the tone in his courtroom at the Edward J. Schwartz Courthouse in downtown San Diego was mostly amiable, and at times even humorous. Anello joked that federal prosecutors should take Johnson out to lunch to show there’s no tension between the two sides. He said that notion, however unintended, could be interpreted based on media coverage of the high-profile case.

The next update is expected at a Nov. 3 status hearing.

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